David Livingston (Credit: Michael Sazel for CeMM)

Renowned Dana-Far­ber sci­en­tist, men­tor and bio­phar­ma ad­vi­sor David Liv­ingston has died

David Liv­ingston, the Dana-Far­ber/Har­vard Med sci­en­tist who helped shine a light on some of the key mol­e­c­u­lar dri­vers of breast and ovar­i­an can­cer, died un­ex­pect­ed­ly last Sun­day.

One of the se­nior lead­ers at Dana-Far­ber dur­ing his near­ly half cen­tu­ry of work there, Liv­ingston was cred­it­ed with shed­ding light on the genes that reg­u­late cell growth, with in­sights in­to in­her­it­ed BR­CA1 and BR­CA2 mu­ta­tions that helped lay the sci­en­tif­ic foun­da­tion for tar­get­ed ther­a­pies and ear­li­er de­tec­tion that have trans­formed the field.

Liv­ingston al­so helped in­flu­ence gen­er­a­tions of sci­en­tists who have gone on to do great things. He men­tored nu­mer­ous sci­en­tists who passed through his lab, in­clud­ing William Kaelin, who went on to win the No­bel Prize in 2019.

“He me­thod­i­cal­ly sculpt­ed me in­to a sci­en­tist,” Kaelin said in an in­ter­view for Dana-Far­ber’s obit­u­ary, “teach­ing me how to frame and tack­le im­por­tant sci­en­tif­ic ques­tions. And his men­tor­ship didn’t end when I left his lab­o­ra­to­ry- it con­tin­ued through­out my ca­reer. My even­tu­al­ly win­ning the No­bel Prize says more about David than it does about me.”

“I came rel­a­tive­ly late to sci­ence,” Kaelin told a Har­vard Med writer in 2020. “I don’t have a PhD. I did all my clin­i­cal train­ing be­fore re­al­ly work­ing in a lab in earnest and, if any­thing, my first lab ex­pe­ri­ence as an un­der­grad was pret­ty aw­ful. It wasn’t un­til I fin­ished my clin­i­cal train­ing here at the Dana-Far­ber and worked for David Liv­ingston that I re­al­ly be­gan to think I could do sci­ence….”

“I still call David once in a while for ad­vice.”

Like so many of the lead­ing fig­ures in the Cam­bridge sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty, Liv­ingston col­lab­o­rat­ed with a wide va­ri­ety of peo­ple and in­sti­tu­tions that mul­ti­plied in and around the cam­pus­es at Har­vard and MIT. He took an ear­ly role on the sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board at epi­ge­net­ics-fo­cused Con­stel­la­tion Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals along­side Rick Klaus­ner, the for­mer NCI chief who’s now one of the lead­ing biotech en­tre­pre­neurs in the Bay Area. He al­so helped as an ad­vi­sor to can­cer ven­ture spe­cial­ist Nex­tech and is cred­it­ed as an ad­vi­sor to a va­ri­ety of phar­ma play­ers de­vot­ed to on­col­o­gy.

Among his many projects, Liv­ingston and Tyler Jacks cre­at­ed the Bridge Pro­ject, a ven­ture that helped fund dozens of projects that brought to­geth­er teams from the Koch In­sti­tute for In­te­gra­tive Can­cer Re­search at MIT and the Dana-Far­ber/Har­vard Can­cer Cen­ter.

“David Liv­ingston was a gi­ant in can­cer re­search,” Jacks told the obit writer for Dana-Far­ber.

And he kept at it. One of his oth­er for­mer stu­dents, Myles Brown, the di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Func­tion­al Can­cer Epi­ge­net­ics, told Dana-Far­ber that Liv­ingston had on­ly re­cent­ly host­ed his an­nu­al breast can­cer re­search re­treat on the fam­i­ly farm in Mass­a­chu­setts.

“David was in rare form as al­ways,” said Brown. “Ask­ing in­sight­ful ques­tions of every speak­er, in­ter­spersed with jokes and quips in a va­ri­ety of lan­guages.”

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

All about Omi­cron; We need more Covid an­tivi­rals; GSK snags Pfiz­er’s vac­cine ex­ec; Janet Wood­cock’s fu­ture at FDA; and more

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Usama Malik

Ex-Im­munomedics CFO charged with in­sid­er trad­ing, faces up to 20 years in prison af­ter al­leged­ly tip­ping off girl­friend and rel­a­tives of a PhI­II suc­cess

The former CFO of Immunomedics, who helped steer the company to its $21 billion buyout by Gilead last year, has been charged with insider trading, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Usama Malik tipped off his then-girlfriend and four others that a Phase III study for Trodelvy would be stopped early four days before Immunomedics publicly announced the result in April 2020, DoJ alleged in its complaint. The individuals then purchased Immunomedics shares, selling them after the news broke and Immunomedics’ stock price doubled.

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Merck's new antiviral molnupiravir (Quality Stock Arts / Shutterstock)

As Omi­cron spread looms, oral an­tivi­rals ap­pear to be one of the best de­fens­es — now we just need more

After South African scientists reported a new Covid-19 variant — dubbed Omicron by the WHO — scientists became concerned about how effective vaccines and monoclonal antibodies might be against it, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein.

“I think it is super worrisome,” Dartmouth professor and Adagio co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross told Endpoints News this weekend. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel echoed similar concerns, telling the Financial Times that experts warned him, “This is not going to be good.”

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In­cor­po­rat­ing Ex­ter­nal Da­ta in­to Clin­i­cal Tri­als: Com­par­ing Dig­i­tal Twins to Ex­ter­nal Con­trol Arms

Most drug development professionals are familiar with the nerve-racking wait for the read-out of a large trial. If it’s negative, is the investigational therapy ineffective? Or could the failure result from an unforeseen flaw in the design or execution of the protocol, rather than a lack of efficacy? The team could spend weeks analyzing data, but a definitive answer may be elusive due to insufficient power for such analyses in the already completed trial. These problems are only made worse if the trial had lower enrollment, or higher dropout than expected due to an unanticipated event like COVID-19. And if a trial is negative, the next one is likely to be larger and more costly — if it happens at all.

Ab­b­Vie tacks on a new warn­ing to Rin­voq la­bel as safe­ty frets crimp JAK class

The safety problems that continue to plague the JAK class as new data highlight some severe side effects are casting a large shadow over AbbVie’s Rinvoq.

As a result of a recent readout highlighting major adverse cardiac events (MACE), malignancy, mortality and thrombosis with Xeljanz a couple of months ago, AbbVie put out a notice late Friday afternoon that it is adding the new class risks to its label for their rival drug.

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Biospec­i­men M&A: Dis­cov­ery ac­quires Al­bert Li's he­pa­to­cyte project; PhI­II tri­al on Bay­er's Nube­qa reached pri­ma­ry end­point

Discovery Life Sciences has acquired what claims to be the Maryland-based host of the world’s largest hepatocyte inventory, known as IVAL, to help researchers select more effective and safer drug candidates in the future.

The combined companies will now serve a wider range of drug research and development scientists, according to Albert Li, who founded IVAL in 2004 and is set to join the Discovery leadership team as the CSO of pharmacology and toxicology.

Pfiz­er, Am­gen and Janssen seek fur­ther clar­i­ty on FDA's new ben­e­fit-risk guid­ance

Three top biopharma companies are seeking more details from the FDA on how the agency conducts its benefit-risk assessments for new drugs and biologics.

While Pfizer, Amgen and Janssen praised the agency for further spelling out its thinking on the subject in a new draft guidance, including a discussion of patient experience data as part of the assessment, the companies said the FDA could’ve included more specifics in the 20-page draft document.

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Re­searchers move clos­er to de­ci­pher­ing blood clots from As­traZeneca, J&J's Covid-19 vac­cines

Researchers may be nearing an answer for the mysterious and life-threatening blood clots that appeared on very rare occasions in people who received the J&J or AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

The new work builds on an early hypothesis researchers in Norway put forward last spring, when the cases first cropped up. They proposed the events were similar to blood clots that can occur in a small subset of patients who receive heparin, one of the most commonly used blood thinners.